Can One Get Medical Marijuana for Anxiety Disorders?


    Over the past ten years or so, we have seen a massive increase in the number of states that have made legal changes to allow for medical marijuana. Along with these changes in state law, there have been regular amendments to add a broader range of ‘qualifying’ conditions to the list, which is fantastic for patients across the U.S.!

    Despite the positive steps that are being taken every month towards a more open-minded approach regarding the benefits cannabis has for a range of health conditions, there is still a long way to go with so many serious and debilitating conditions still not making the cut.

    One such condition is anxiety, which affects around 40 million adults in America and can range from unpleasant to crippling. But can those suffering from anxiety benefit from a medical marijuana card in 2018? We take a look at the current laws around medical marijuana for anxiety in the U.S.

    What is Anxiety?

    Anxiety, similarly to depression, is often overlooked due to it being a mental health issue, and therefore ‘invisible’ and misjudged. However, the fact is that anxiety can have a severe impact on a person’s day to day life, and comes with some serious implications for one’s health if left untreated.

    Most of us will suffer from some form of anxiety in our lifetime, and although there are treatments available, they often come with their own risks that can often put people off altogether.

    As a mental health condition, anxiety can often be mislabelled, which means that many of those struggling find it challenging to get help due to shame or embarrassment.

    What are the Symptoms of Anxiety?

    Anxiety can vary in severity and can affect everyone differently; however, some common symptoms are present, some of which are below:

    • Sweating
    • Racing heart
    • Heart palpitations
    • Shortness of breath
    • Insomnia
    • Restlessness
    • Nausea
    • Fatigue
    • Lack of appetite
    • Eating disorders
    • Inability to concentrate
    • Depression
    • Self-harm
    • Headaches
    • Dizziness
    • Feeling on edge
    • Feeling like you might die
    • Worrying about something bad happening.

    These are only some of the symptoms of anxiety, and for some individuals who may suffer from one or two of these symptoms, life can go on as usual. For others, however, there could be many effects taking place at one time, which can intervene with daily life and wellbeing.

    What are the Current Therapies on Offer for Anxiety?

    If you are struggling to handle your anxiety, there are traditional therapies on offer that may help relieve some of the symptoms. Treatment can either take place through medication or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). However, it is important to note that CBT can be extremely expensive and many may not be able to afford this option, and the majority of medications provided to those with anxiety come with a risk themselves.

    Benzodiazepines are the most commonly prescribed type of treatment for anxiety, with statistics showing that over 5% of adults between 18 and 80 had received at least one prescription for a benzodiazepine in just one year!

    Benzodiazepine medication such as Xanax is incredibly addictive, and it is easily adapted to, meaning that patients soon rely on higher and higher amounts to feel the benefits. On top of this, they also have side effects such as fatigue, mental fogginess, and disorientation, which can make anxiety feel worse.

    Cannabis and Anxiety

    Marijuana has been used for hundreds of thousands of years to relax with and unwind, but up until very recently, every state across the U.S. has dismissed the plant as a potential aid for anxiety.

    There are a lot of stereotypes surrounding marijuana and anxiety, with many anecdotal reports of cannabis use causing increased anxiety and paranoia, it is often a very misunderstood condition. While there is some truth in this, it is all about choosing the correct strain for the condition, as some will by their very nature cause anxiety to become worse, while many others can do the exact opposite.

    The Science

    Although the media has portrayed cannabis to be a quick way to reduce stress and anxiety, the reality is not quite so dramatic! However, amongst hundreds of anecdotal reports from those who suffer from anxiety claiming that cannabis has changed their lives, there are also some promising scientific studies!

    Although not the only cannabinoid to do so, cannabidiol (CBD) has been shown to have a substantial effect on the brain’s neurotransmitter known as GABA. GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter, which can stop anxiety (amongst other things) and can restore balance in the brain’s chemicals. When consumed, marijuana – and in particular, CBD – can enhance its effects, thus reducing symptoms of anxiety more effectively.

    A small animal study published by the Laboratory of Panic and Respiration looked at the anti-anxiety effects of CBD on animal models of anxiety and involving healthy volunteers. The results revealed that CBD certainly had anxiolytic-like effects, and CBD was also shown to reduce anxiety in patients with social anxiety disorder.

    Another study published in 2014 looked at CBD’s potential as an antidepressant and anti-anxiety treatment. The study looked, again, at animal models put through a range of stress-inducing tests, and the results revealed that CBD exhibited an anti-anxiety and antidepressant effect in animal models.

    So, Can You Get a Medical Marijuana Card for Anxiety?

    Up until as recently as 2018, only recreational states allowed for access to cannabis for anxiety disorders, which has been a point of upset for the hundreds of thousands of people who suffer every day.

    However, it seems as though times are beginning to change, with both Massachusetts and New Jersey now allowing anxiety to qualify for the state medical marijuana programme!

    Two states isn’t much, but it is undoubtedly a massive step in the right direction, especially when we consider the stigma attached to mental health disorders such as anxiety.

    So, if you don’t live in Massachusetts, New Jersey, or a recreational state, hang tight, times are changing!

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